What is the best baitcasting reel? After conducting over 20 hours of research from fellow anglers and getting the chance to fish with some of these reels. I've come up with 5 reels that cover the whole spectrum of needs. I looked at the following categories, to compile this list. Value adding features, braking systems, drag systems, casting distance, smoothness during casting and retrieve, and most importantly price. With reels, you usually get what you pay for. For price, the sweet spot seems to be the midrange reels. This range gives you better bearings and materials than the entry level reels, some features from the premium reels but without the premium price. Editor's choice goes to the Curado K. The best bang for buck goes to Lew's tournament MB. The Daiwa Tatula SV TW gets the award for most reliable.
Comparison table of the best baitcasting reels:
DAIWA TATULA SV TW
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Best baitcasting reel:
SHIMANO CURADO K
The best baitcasting reel award goes to the Curado K. The Curado series built its legacy as a go-to reel for anglers of all levels for both fresh and saltwater environments. The Curado K supersedes the popular Curado I, a reel that many people thought was perfect already. So how did Shimano improve on this already perfect reel? The Curado K borrows a lot of its design cues from Shimano's higher end reels like the Mentanium and Aldebaran.
One thing you’ll notice immediately is that it is smaller than its predecessor. Shimano claims they’ve made it 10% smaller which makes the Curado K a lot easier to palm. The reel just disappears in your hand. Even though it is smaller, it still balances perfectly on the rod seat. The reel is made from aluminum and a Ci4 side plate making it very light and durable.
Some of my favorite features are;
The Curado K weighs only 7.6 oz. It has 6+1 stainless steel shielded ball bearings (SSARB) and comes in three gear ratios in both right and left-hand retrieves.
Top Pick for Speed and Reliability:
DAIWA TATULA CT TYPE R
CT stands for compact tatula. A remodel of the original but is more compact and ergonomic. Made from a new aluminum frame which is stronger, more durable, and lighter weighing only 7.2oz (approximately half an ounce lighter than the original). The Type R is a suped-up version of the Tatula CT. It comes with an additional 2 CRBB bearings, and a lighter spool making it lighter than the CT.
This reduction in weight should allow you to cast lighter lures farther. It uses a mag4 system, a magnetic braking system which is adjusted via an external dial with adjustments from 1 - 10. You never have to open the side plate there is no chance of anything getting in or you dropping the side plate quick adjustments made easy. Swept handle - a 90mm handle which is….(moves paddles closer to the reel’s center of balance) resulting in a more powerful retrieve.
The reel uses Daiwa’s Ultimate tournament drag (UTD) - which gives you 13.2lbs of smooth drag. It has the Twing System - which is Daiwa’s new levelwind system that works in two different ways during casting and retrieve. The "T" aperture allows line to flow freely from the spool through the wide top section on casts, reducing line noise, friction and wear. This improves casting accuracy and minimizes backlashes.
Best value award:
LEW'S TOURNAMENT MB
My best value award goes to the Lew’s tournament pro-MB. Best value is all about price to feature ratio. The tournament pro is designed using Lew’s new LFS platform which stands for (lighter, faster, stronger). This makes the reel’s profile a lot smaller and ergonomic.
Made out of one piece of aluminum the reel weighs in at only 6.7 ounces which makes it very easy to palm and very comfortable to use. The reel uses lew's multi braking system which features both a magnetic cast control which is adjusted externally via a click-dial) and an internal 4-pin position on/off centrifugal braking system which does require you to take down the side-plate to adjust.
It has an audible cast that makes fine tuning easy especially when you're switching baits.
Like most reels, in the segment, this reel casts a mile. But where it excels more than most is it's ability to cast light lures a country mile. This can take a while to get used to so expect to overshoot your target in the beginning. This is a great problem to have though right?
It has a carbon composite drag system that is very smooth and offers a max drag of 20lbs. It has a 5-star drag that is audible and clickable which allows you to make fine tune adjustments.
If you have extremely large hards this not might be the reel for you. Because it is so small it might be hard to operate.
Best baitcasting reel for minimizing backlashes
DAIWA TATULA SV TW
If you want a reel that minimizing the amount backlashes without paying a premium price the Daiwa Tatula SV TW might just be what the doctor ordered. The Daiwa Tatula borrows a lot of its design cues from the higher end zillion but at a much more affordable price. The Tatula SV has a small frame that is easy to palm just like the Tatula CT and Tatula CT Type R, but what differentiates it from those two is that it incorporates the SV spool. This is the 1st time that Daiwa has ever packaged SV spool into this price point. The SV spool is exceptionally lightweight but very durable and has no starting resistance.
This helps reduce backlashes and increases casting distance for both light and heavy lures. It also features;
It has 7BB(2CRBB)+1RB CRBB (Corrosion Resistant Ball Bearings) and 13.2lbs of Daiwa’s U.T.D (Ultimate Tournament Drag), which give you enough power to go toe to toe with any fish.
Last but not least, it has a swept handle that reduces the amount of wobble in your hand as you crank resulting in less wasted energy and a more powerful retrieve. The Tatula SV TW comes in 3 ratios in both left and right hand retrieve. Each gear ratio has a different color accent making it easier to pick the right ratio on the fly without having to read the speed.
Most versatile baitcasting reel:
13 FISHING CONCEPT A
The 13 Fishing Concept A wins most versatile due to its usability in both freshwater and saltwater environments. The Concept A is made out of a durable lightweight aluminum. Small and compact it palms in your hand perfectly. The reel weighs 6.7oz and has a matte-black finish. It has 7 ball bearings (3 anti-corrosion, 3 stainless steel, and a Dead Stop Anti-Reverse ball bearing) making it useable for light inshore applications. This reel is smooth as butter and bombs lures far. The Concept A sits low on your rod which reduces friction improving casting distance.
The Concept A uses a 6-way Centrifugal Braking System that you adjust by removing the side cover. It has a beetle wing system which means the side cover remains attached to the reel and you don’t have to worry about losing it. The brakes are adjusted via a dial which gives you six different settings (0-6).
It has a lightweight aluminum handle with giant oversized cork handles which are non-slip. Even when they get wet your fingers will not slip which is great when trying to reel in those bigger fish.
This is where 13 fishing separates itself from the competition. The bulldog system offers 22lbs of drag that will put the brakes on any fish! The bulldog drag will allow you to horse fish in and pull them out of weeds, brush or any heavy cover.
How to select the best baitcasting reel for you:
When shopping for reels, one thing to keep in mind is that you get what you pay for. Set a budget and find a reel that fits your needs at the high end of that price range.
Speed of retrieve / Gear ratio
One of the most important things to consider when purchasing your baitcaster is gear ratio. Gear ratio simply means, the number of revolutions of the spool per turn of the reel handle. This determines how much line comes in per turn of the handle. For instance, in a 7.3:1 gear ratio, the last number (1) will always represent a 360-degree turn of the reel handle. The first two numbers (7.3) represent the number of revolutions of the spool per handle revolution. So for our example, for every 360-degree rotation of the handle, the spool will rotate 7.3 times. Sometimes other angler's might ignore the second number in the gear ratio and just call each reel a 5 speed for a 5.3:1, 6 speed for a 6.6:1 and so on.
What gear ratio should you buy?
Each brand will have different ratios covering the whole spectrum. The ratio you need will depend on the techniques and applications you’re using.
The most common gear ratios and their uses:
Slow ratio aka 5 speed - Handles torque really well. Ideal for deep diving crankbaits, spinnerbaits and reaction baits that you want to work slow. The slower gear ratio allows the bait to stay in the strike zone longer providing you more time to get a bite.
6 Speed - This the all purpose gear ratio and allows you to get the best of both worlds. It can handle taking up line really fast but also has enough power to handle the pull of deep diving crank baits. Can be used for jigs, seinkos even crainkbaits if you want to work them fast.
7 Speed - Anything you need to pick up slack with, buzz baits, frogs, jigging (so fish won't get tangled in the weeds)
8 Speed - Anything high speed, top water walking bait, flipping, frogs
Reels come in different spool sizes you have 100’s, 150’s and this just means the amount of line the reel can hold. If you're using braided line this shouldn't be a major factor. Where it’s important is if you’re using bigger line and you need to be able to make longer casts and need to take up line a lot faster a bigger spool is better suited for that.
Braking and tension system:
The tension knob controls your line at the beginning of your cast and the braking system at the end of your cast.
Materials and ball bearings:
Materials used can make the reel lighter and more durable. Magnesium and aluminum can be very durable. Magnesium tends to be very expensive though. So you would need to consider the cost vs. benefit.
One big misconception that is often perpetuated in the fishing community is that the higher the number of ball bearings the higher the quality of reel. While that holds true for the top of the line reels, it's not exactly the case across the board. For example, you might have two $100 reels one with 10 ball bearings and another with 6. The ball bearings placed in the 10 ball bearing reel may only cost 10cents each while the bearings on the 6 ball bearing reel cost a $1 each. The reel with the 6 ball bearings of a higher quality is going to last you longer and would be a better investment. So when looking at bearings look for words like shielded, double shielded and sealed bearings.
The biggest problem you will face is figuring out how much performance do you really need for a baitcaster? The very best models are smooth, powerful and will last a very long time, offering outstanding performance even in the harshest environments. But these flagship models are also very expensive.
The list above focusses on all those good qualities from the flagship reels, but without breaking the bank. I hope my list has helped you find the best baitcasting reel for your needs. Which one is your favorite?